Rio’s governor, Sérgio Cabral Filho, made a surprise visit to the state hospital Albert Schweitzer, in the Realengo section of Rio de Janeiro, just two days after swearing in as the state’s new governor and declared himself shocked by what he saw.
After the short inspection carried out with the state health secretary Sérgio Côrtes, Cabral called the situation in the health facility "public calamity" and compared the scenes he witnessed to a genocide.
"I’m shocked," he said. "It’s one thing to have criminals killing innocent people. They are bandits, traffickers those who are cowardly scaring off the population. It’s something else to have the state committing genocide. What the state does here is to commit murder. There are more people dying here than outside due to the criminals’ savage fight."
The governor ordered that the Fire Department’s chief, colonel Pedro Marco Cruz Machado, assign a team for an emergency task force that will clean and fix the hospital’s most blatant problems.
Cabral said that the total disrepair of the facility could not be blamed on lack of money. "This shouldn’t be like that," he commented.
During his visit, the governor saw patients lying in stretchers on the corridors, broken elevators and medical devices, infiltration of water, infirmaries that had been deactivated, and construction work that had been started and then abandoned.
In the storage room there were boxes spread all over amid water puddles, cockroaches and medicine bottles with expiration dates long passed.
According to secretary Côrtes, the irregularities found at the Albert Schweitzer are not the exception but rather the rule. Commenting on the situation he stated: "Today, we have hospitals with bars, as if they were prisons, because health professionals live entirely cornered with no conditions to work and afraid of peoples’ reaction. This is going to change."
The governor also talked about the death of Rosa Maria Aparecida César, 40, a cleaning lady who worked for his family for two years and who died Tuesday, January 2, after waiting for a doctor for close to six hours while at the Souza Aguiar hospital’s emergency room, in downtown Rio. Rosa, said Cabral, was the victim of a "Russian roulette, " created by governmental negligence over public health.
Said Cabral: "This is a case of public calamity. Something to be handled by the Civilian Defense. We need a scrubbing, we need to clean it all. You can’t find anything good here but the effort of some nurses and doctors. The health situation is dramatic. People are dying in hospitals. Rio’s hospitals are a true Russian roulette."
The governor vowed to dedicate most of his energy in the next four years to take care of health, security and education. He also promised to keep an eye on how each hospital is going to clean up its act.
And added: "What I saw in the emergency room is a chaotic situation, a true police case, an inhumane situation. We have to overcome this first stage in a speedy way. For this I will rely on the help of the Fire Department, which has vast experience in the health area."
January 1st, during the swearing in of his secretaries, governor Cabral signed 15 decrees, one of them declaring a state of emergency in the health sector.
According to the Finance secretary, Joaquim Levy, the measure will give the Health secretary all the means he needs to acquire supplies and medicine in order to overcome initial difficulties. The emergency situation will last for 90 days and can be extended by another three months.